China is seeking an Atlantic port for major naval base

The day is coming when China's navy, already the largest in the world by number of ships, will be patrolling the Atlantic Ocean, its missile-carrying submarines able to be offshore of any power it wishes to target and its hunter-killer subs free to follow any ships China might want to sink.  As our scientific and technical expertise declines relative to China's, thanks to elevating skin color and other identity politics factors over merit, and as the U.S. Navy prioritizes diversity training over technical competence, the qualitative edge our fleet is supposed to have almost inevitably will decline.

In an interview with the Associated Press, General Stephen Townsend

said Beijing is looking to establish a large navy port capable of hosting submarines or aircraft carriers on Africa's western coast. Townsend said China has approached countries stretching from Mauritania to south of Namibia, intent on establishing a naval facility. If realized, that prospect would enable China to base warships in its expanding Navy in the Atlantic as well as Pacific oceans.

"They're looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships. That becomes militarily useful in conflict," said Townsend, who heads U.S. Africa Command. "They're a long way toward establishing that in Djibouti. Now they're casting their gaze to the Atlantic coast and wanting to get such a base there." (snip)

"The Chinese are outmaneuvering the U.S. in select countries in Africa," said Townsend. "Port projects, economic endeavors, infrastructure and their agreements and contracts will lead to greater access in the future. They are hedging their bets and making big bets on Africa."

China's base in Djibouti enables its ships to patrol the Middle East oil region, the Indian Ocean, and East Africa's coast.  China has been on a major trade and aid offensive in Africa, buying up vast quantities of resources and offering huge loans under its Belt and Road Initiative to indebt African countries to it, while building infrastructure to facilitate further economic ties with Africa.  Meanwhile, Chinese consumer goods flood Africa.

Now, with China targeting West Africa, not just trade, but military balance of power calculations will be changing in China's favor if the plans come to fruition.

"The Atlantic coast concerns me greatly," [General Townsend] said, pointing to the relatively shorter distance from Africa's west coast to the U.S. In nautical miles, a base on Africa's northern Atlantic coast could be substantially closer to the U.S. than military facilities in China are to America's western coast.

More specifically, other U.S. officials say the Chinese have been eyeing locations for a port in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Defense Department's 2020 report on China's military power, said China has likely considered adding military facilities to support its naval, air and ground forces in Angola, among other locations. And it noted that the large amount of oil and liquefied natural gas imported from Africa and the Middle East, make those regions a high priority for China over the next 15 years.

Henry Tugendhat, a senior policy analyst with the United States Institute of Peace, said China has a lot of economic interests on Africa's west coast, including fishing and oil. China also has helped finance and build a large commercial port in Cameroon.

He said that any effort by Beijing to get a naval port on the Atlantic coast would be an expansion of China's military presence.

General Townsend earlier made similar warnings to Congress:

China's "activities in Africa are outpacing those of the United States and our allies as they seek resources and markets to feed economic growth in China and leverage economic tools to increase their global reach and influence," Gen. Townsend testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee April 22.

In prepared remarks, he noted that Beijing has pledged to deliver some $60 billion in infrastructure and development loans to an array of African countries in recent years. 

He also said the goal of Chinese military operations in Djibouti are to create a "platform to project power across the continent and its waters."

The 20th century was known as "The American Century."  One fifth of the way through the 21st, that label seems increasingly inappropriate.  

Image: Kremlin.ru, via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY 4.0.

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